By Martin Gauthier
Meditating is both easy and hard. It is easy because it requires nothing else but time and a bit of space to practice it. It can be hard to accomplish it without some basic technique and patience. For those who had the opportunity to do so, do you remember when you learned to ride a bicycle? The first real test was to keep your balance and react appropriately as you pedaled along wherever the bicycle would bring you. In other words, you needed attention. Meditation requires just that.
Step # 1: Keep yourself focused on the goal to reach
In his formative years in India, the famous yogi Paramahansa Yogananda met a teacher, Bhaduri Mahasaya, who reminded his young pupil, after meditating for an hour, not to “mistake the technique for the Goal.” There is a reason for meditating. Maybe you want to attain peace of mind, find an answer to a question, elevate your spirit to other dimensions or communicate with your Higher Self. Whatever your objective, it must be on your mind at all times when you prepare yourself to meditate. Call it a mental bookmark.
Step #2: Find your space, inside and outside
I have three main areas in my house in which I meditate: in my basement, in my sanctum and in my bed. I choose one of the three locations to ensure I will not be disturbed for a given period of time. Choose a spot where you will feel comfortable and adorn it with anything that will get you in the proper mood: it may be incense, candles, music or a picture or painting that you like to look at before you start meditating. In any case, it is important that your Self knows what you are doing to prepare yourself for the inner session. This is an important ingredient for success; your soul will know you are placing yourself in a situation to enter your inner space and will act accordingly to ensure you achieve your goal.
Step #3: Get into the right frame of mind and position
Meditation is concentration and the reverse is also true. You can meditate standing up, walking, playing pool or chess, climbing up a mountain or listening to music. It all depends on what you intend to accomplish and how much you put your heart into it. If that goal of yours is to remain focused on what is outside of yourself, so be it. But be reminded that when you are doing so, you are honing your sense of observation and acuity for what is perceived, in the world of effects. To reach the world of ideas, intuition and imagination, you have to tune in a higher realm and go deep inside yourself. To do this, you have to shut off the outside world and there is no better way to do it than to close your eyes and plunge into the domain of silence. The best position to adopt is to sit with your back straight, preferably in a lotus position or in a chair. The reason behind this is not to fall asleep in the process, which is too easy to do when you start relaxing.
Step #4: Breathe correctly
Your goal is set, you found a quiet space, your spine is in an upright position and you have just closed your eyes. You are ready to meditate. What you now have to do is breathe correctly. Most of the time, we do not pay enough attention to this vital function and are engaged in shallow breathing: inhaling and exhaling in a matter of a few seconds, using only the chest area. Deep breathing, which is key during meditation, requires us to fill our lungs entirely, in a smooth fashion, and empty them completely before repeating the process. As you can now understand, breathing can be as much a voluntary and involuntary function. This is an excellent opportunity to use the power of your consciousness efficiently because at first, breathing deeply can certainly make you impatient. To avoid this, use your will to focus on the air slowly entering your nostrils and traveling downwards to fill your lungs; when you exhale, feel the air leaving your lungs and moving outside your body through your nostrils. Keep your attention on the process for a few minutes if you can. If you succeed, congratulate yourself: you have begun meditating. The next phase is crucial.
Step #5: Be your goal
This affirmation can seem very strange at first. But being your goal brings yourself a step beyond the intellectual level and that is exactly where you want to be when you meditate. The first part of this process is to think about your goal. It requires you to fill your mind with whatever you wanted to do before you settled somewhere to meditate. By thinking of your goal, you trigger a process whereas your Self puts you in a mood to explore this thought. But unless you have attained some incredible peace of mind, another thought fills your mind in a matter of seconds; and another. Soon enough, you are dealing with a train of thoughts and comments on a variety of subjects. Your inner voice, your ego’s way of disrupting your peace, has kicked in and is very relunctant to give you the peace you wanted to have in the first place. The only way to move beyond this stage – when you become aware of it – is to go back to your original intent and focus in a way that it fills your entire being. You then become the object of your meditation, you become your goal, whatever it is. There will come a time when your ego will have no space to entertain you with its blabbing and will let you be.
Step #6: Let yourself be
Now that you have achieved your goal, it is time to switch from the active aspect of your meditation to the passive one. You cease to think about being your goal and enter into a bona fide silence of mind. That is very hard to do but it is feasible, do not despair. Even if you think of nothing for a few seconds, pat yourself on the back, you have progressed! The objective here is to enter that space inside where your higher self resides. If you are conscious of this space, you are fortunate. Await for any answer you have been seeking for; it will come to you, either within that precious moment or it could be revealed to you later in the form of insight. In any case, when you feel it is time to stop meditating, do so by opening your eyes, stretch your body and resume whatever occupation you had before entering your private world.
By Martin Gauthier
The survival of a part of us after the disappearance of the physical body is something that does not surprise a lot of people anymore. Since Antiquity, thinkers have tried to understand and explain to others what was happening to those who leave us behind, in order to give not only a meaning to life, but also to death.
We therefore became accustomed to beliefs that send souls to places as diverse as the Kingdom of the Dead in Egypt, Hades underworld in Ancient Greece, the Elysian Fields in Rome, Hell and Purgatory for Christians, the Sheol and Garden of Eden for Jews, Barzakh for those of the Islamic faith and the Happy Hunting Ground for Native American tribes.
In short, the departure from our world is a given, there is a transition to another world and even a destination. Religions, sects, movements and philosophical schools offer a range of options on the subject, some good, some outright bad, which are often based on services provided during the existence, in order, no doubt, to prepare us before we jump into this novel adventure.
What still surprises many of us, however, is the idea of the transmigration of the soul, especially in the West. The Hindu religion has been interested it for a long time and even exported the idea. To showcase it and wet our appetite, it exposes this concept known to most of us: karma. This Sanskrit word does not appear at a basic level to have a secret for anyone slightly interested in the human condition. It is used in all manners. Philosophers, proponents of spirituality and public opinion make use of it, jokingly or seriously.
We usually tend to link karma with fate. It is considered an inherent part of our destiny. The logic that underlies karma is rather simple and can be stated as follows: the evolving being – you or me for example – is shaped by its past actions and past lives. Karma presupposes that for every action, there is a reaction or compensation. Life leads us to make decisions that translate into actions that inevitably bring consequences to which we react and thus turns the wheel of life.
And whoever talks about past lives talks about reincarnation, a concept Hindus have placed in the heart of their religion. The Bhagavad-Gita, an epic poem of the Hindu tradition, states it quite clearly in Chapter 2, Verse 27: “Of that which is born, death is certain, of that which is dead, birth is certain.”
Hindus regard the body as a temporary material envelope from which the soul frees itself when death occurs. If bad actions predominated in the course of the lifetime, the soul comes back in a new body to compensate for them.
Although Christianity, Judaism and Islam do not espouse this way of viewing life, other movements, groups and philosophical schools accept it and develop the principle. Karma is based on two factors: the survival of what we are beyond the physical plane and the return in the flesh to continue our evolution.
Reincarnation thus implies that the soul needs to take a physical envelope more than once to complete its evolution. Why this need? It’s difficult to give a definite answer without having completed our evolution, but the notion put forward by Rudolf Steiner that the destiny of the human and of the Earth are inextricably linked due to the fact they are born at the same time is something to take into account.
As this evolution first took place in an intangible way, some spiritual seekers say that the physical portion of the being, chiselled over this long period, has reached a level of evolution and perfection the astral body is still far from having attained. It is this learning phase of the emotional portion of us that has so much impact on the physical body. Thus, this body of ours is, ultimately, only a receptacle and the tactile memory of our decisions that reflects the impact of actions decided through the use of our free will.
The dynamics inherent in karma are consequently set in motion. The results of the successive chains of causes and effect somehow elicit a return in a corporeal structure, in matter. It is a question of rebalancing the being that created an imbalance while indulging in excesses during a life experience.
This text is an excerpt from my book We only live once, available in paperback and ebook format at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk. Watch what it’s all about on YouTube. Visit Seek Publications on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
By Martin Gauthier
Open the door, turn on the light, look around you, turn off the light and close the door. This is about the length of your existence on the cosmic scale. And yet, it is probably long considering the age of the universe.
Viewed in this light, life really seems too short. Yet, everything is relative: when we’re young, we have the impression that we have all the time in the world to accomplish certain things. It becomes quite the opposite when we reach an advanced age: we still have so much to do and so little time to do it.
Then, another disconcerting notion arises in us: all the wisdom accumulated over the years, borne out of the crucible of experience, is of little use when we age because of the sudden or gradual degradation of our physical body. We do justify ourselves by saying that this knowledge will be transmitted to those who follow us – the next generation, our kindred – for their well-being and that of society. British playwright Tom Stoppard summed it all up by saying that age is the price to pay for maturity.
On a personal level though, questions abound: why can’t this experience help me? What did I learn all this for? What an immense waste of time and effort life can seem to be then. Those afflicted by disease or physical disabilities are still more likely to think so. Life seems so unfair, so incomprehensible.
But by looking at everything from a bird’s eye view, we realize that life is a continuous process, a phenomenon that never ceases to be, a vital energy that under our very eyes is transmitted from mother to newborn, handed down from generation to generation, to provide a continuity without which we would simply not be. This transmission of the germ of what drives us, on which we have absolutely no control, makes us realize that we are not responsible in any way for its creation.
Cloning aficionados might not like what follows, but it is no less real: we are incapable of creating life. All we can do is help procreate it.
It is when we understand this that life renders us humble. We can then see the forest for the trees. We elevate our gaze to contemplate the finite and the infinite. Our spirit can fly to see life as a journey, a voyage through time and space, an adventure of which we know neither the beginning nor the end. Life, which unfolds in multiple forms, visible and invisible, is this primeval energy that constantly renews itself but remains the same in essence, an unbroken line in the planetary evolution. How can we not then realize:
We only live once.
Everybody agrees with that, be they atheists, scientists, believers or mystics.
The atheist believes that life is valuable and beautiful in itself and worth living because of its unique character; that there is no need to have a divine intervention to give meaning to it. He believes that the only way to be immortal is to leave a legacy that is profitable for his children or humanity. In his eyes, life ends for the being that dies and that there is no proof whatsoever that there is something else or even that the human being has a soul.
The scientist agrees with this view, but he does so only because of lack of reliable data. He wonders what life after death means exactly, what are the parameters of this idea which, in the end, he considers to be illogical without a verifiable basis. As string theory suggests, he allows himself to see the universe beyond the readily accepted four dimensions, therefore beyond length, width, depth and time. And then, his quest for the infinitely small leads him to probe beyond what is readily observable: subatomic particles.
The vision of the believer generally depends on his religious creed. But he distinguishes himself here in the sense that he grants life a reprieve. He extends it beyond physical existence. If he is not Buddhist, he generally gives life substance, so to speak, by providing it with a soul that evolves in a beneficial or hateful world, a world that is more often than not organized with a foreseeable ending. For Christians and Muslims, it is the resurrection of the dead that occurs before Judgment Day, the end of times. For most religions, this vision of the afterlife leads the practitioner to tailor his existence accordingly.
The mystic, which tends to explain Creation by seeking what makes it tick and by forging links with the invisible, pushes the idea further. He views life as a great puzzle to solve, an essence which emanates from cosmic forces for which the material portion represents its concrete outcome. He strives to understand how it operates. To this end, he studies it; he learns to understand and to love it. By virtue of his faith and inner work, he opens pathways of supra-sensory knowledge from which he gathers concepts he yearns to test personally. In his eyes, life is viewed more and more as a laboratory to conduct spiritual experiences, to help his kindred spirits and further the progress of humanity.
Martin Gauthier is the author of We only live once. The book is available in paperback and ebook format on these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk. Watch what it’s all about on YouTube. Visit Seek Publications on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.